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The Royal Ballet Studio Programme – sparking choreographic talent and keeping ballet fresh

Senior Producer Emma Southworth on building on classical heritage, nurturing new ideas and pushing ballet forwards.

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

5 June 2015 at 5.14pm | Comment on this article

‘Having a smaller, more intimate space like the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House offers us many different opportunities in addition to The Royal Ballet’s work on the main stage, where both heritage is celebrated and the art form of ballet is developed,’ says Emma Southworth, Senior Producer of The Royal Ballet Studio Programme.

‘The technique demanded by ballet enables the body to do extraordinary things and if you can bring in external influences, you can find artistically interesting ways of using that very identifiable technique. Influences from more contemporary dance and international companies can provide very different aesthetics and help to move the art form forwards. And this is what we are exploring in the Linbury.’

Visiting companies form an important part of The Royal Ballet Studio Programme – which programmes the dance in the Linbury and produces choreographic projects. This week alone has seen Springboard companies Ballet Central (Central School of Ballet), Verve (Northern School of Contemporary Dance), Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and Dutch National Ballet Junior Company take to the stage in the Linbury. Following their performances, the Junior Company  will remain at the Royal Opera House for a four-day, choreographic workshop.

‘The company will spend each of the four days with a different choreographer – Charlotte Edmonds (the first participant of The Royal Ballet Young Choreographer programme), James CousinsFukiko Takase and Catarina Carvalho (both from Wayne McGregor | Random Dance) – and show their work in an informal setting at the end of each session,’ says Emma. ‘It offers choreographers the rare opportunity to work with a company of highly skilled classical dancers, while the dancers have the chance to create work and explore different movement with choreographers they have never worked with before. It is an important part of their artistic development, as dancers these days have to be able to adapt to the wide range of styles, as you see on the main stage.’

Exploring new choreographic projects like the Dutch National Ballet Juniors’ workshop is a key part of the programme’s drive to find and nurture new choreographic talent.

‘We’re trying to develop an even richer culture of new ideas, encompassing whatever the choreographer wants to explore, and innovative approaches to the movement language of classical ballet,’ says Emma. ‘Within The Royal Ballet, it’s not always easy to find the time to engage the dancers in choreographic projects because the schedules here are busy, but we want to find ways of casting our net as wide as possible and help spark choreographic thinking and talent. Part of this is done by providing opportunities for dancers to experiment – to explore fragments of movement or research a new idea – in an unpressurized environment. That’s one of the reasons Draft Works is such a vital platform, and it’s a project we’re developing further.’

Draft Works, a forum for new work curated by Wayne McGregor and first staged in 2007, offers dancers the opportunity to perform short choreography still in the making.

‘We recently staged the first Draft Works National event, which brought together Northern Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, Rambert and The Royal Ballet, enabling choreographers to present work in an informal way with different companies from different dance backgrounds. Next Season, we’ll explore smaller, more frequent showings in the Clore Studio.’

Next Season also sees an exciting range of productions on the Linbury stage.

‘We aim to present things that you can’t do in the main house because of the scale, but there are strong links between both stages,’ says Emma. ‘The quality of artists is the same – next Season for example, we have Royal Ballet Guest Artist Alessandra Ferri returning to perform Chéri, offering audiences the chance to see her much closer and in a completely different context, with American Ballet Theatre Principal Herman Cornejo and actress Francesca Annis; and Royal Ballet Principal Zenaida Yanowsky and Principal Guest Artist Carlos Acosta will be performing Will Tuckett's Elizabeth.’

‘We also try to explore the same themes to strengthen the link between the stages. For example, Cas Public open the Autumn Season in the Linbury Studio Theatre with Symphonie Dramatique, an interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, while Kenneth MacMillan’s production is performed on the main stage.’

In 2016, the Linbury will close for refurbishment as part of Open Up:

‘Open Up is a great opportunity for us to lay the firm foundations of a new choreographic programme and develop relationships with other national and international companies. Our overall aim is to create a unique dance programme in the Linbury Studio Theatre that has coherence with the Main Stage programme, but that also works as part of a toolkit to develop the art form of classical ballet.’

Visit our Autumn Season page to find out more about the productions on stage in the Linbury Studio Theatre for 2015/16.

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